Various types of equipment are available for cardiovascular endurance and conditioning. They each offer a unique method of endurance training. Some are weight-bearing, some are not, some are easier on the back or knees, some target the legs and some work the entire body. They come with “bells and whistles,” but their main function is simply to elevate your heart rate. For cardiovascular endurance, your heart rate should be elevated for greater lengths of time.
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Treadmills are one of the most common and popular pieces of cardiovascular equipment and can be used for rehab, walking, jogging or running at varying speeds and inclines. Many include built-in remote heart rate monitors that will automatically read and display your heart rate from your chest strap. Walking on a treadmill is a weight-bearing exercise, meaning you are challenging not only your cardiovascular system, but are also strengthening the bones in your legs, hips and spine. Using the proper speed and incline, treadmills are generally easy on the knees and back.
Elliptical trainers are known for being effective, non-impact pieces of cardiovascular endurance equipment. They allow you to step forward or backward, and give the option to use your arms, or just your legs. Training on an elliptical elevates your heart rate and offers a full body workout. Though weight-bearing, the non-impact motion is gentle on the knees and back.
Exercise bikes offer a wide range of intensity levels and provide non-weight bearing cardiovascular conditioning. Stationary bikes are upright and have no backrest. Recumbent bikes are horizontal, have a back rest and are easy on the back and knees. Upright stationary bikes are intense and challenge the leg muscles because they allow you to stand up and pedal, just like on a real bike. Virtual bikes come with gears, LCD screens, race track programs and handlebars that move to simulate steering on a real bike.
The rowing machine is a full-body, non-weight bearing piece of cardiovascular exercise equipment. Pushing with the legs and pulling with the arms gets your heart rate up and challenges your cardiovascular endurance. Although there is no impact on the joints, rowing machines should be used cautiously if you have back, knee or shoulder problems.
Stair machines elevate your rate up by duplicating the motion of climbing up stairs. Although this is an excellent choice for cardiovascular endurance training, it might not be the best choice for a beginner or those with bad knees. The stair machine focuses on your lower body while your upper body tries not to hold on for dear life.